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Writers and Artists from County's High Schools
Make Their Mark in MCCC's Aspirations 2011


West Windsor, N.J. - In an annual project that encourages Mercer County's high school students to explore their creative and artistic talents, faculty and administrators at Mercer County Community College welcomed students and their families to Kelsey Theatre on April 12. The event marked the publication of Aspirations 2011, the college's journal for teen writers and artists. Seventy-one writers and 26 artists, a number with multiple submissions, were selected from 12 area high schools. Cover art, entitled "Los Manos," was done by 12th grader Stacy Kamin, of Hightstown High School.

Aspirations Editor Bettina Caluori, an MCCC associate professor of English, praised the assembled students for seeking to "find their identity, announce their convictions, and prepare to meet their futures." Caluori observed that the journal is aptly named. "It is a spirited and thought-provoking tour of students' aspirations. Don't be afraid to make your mark," she advised. This year's panel of judges included nine MCCC faculty members and representatives from 10 of the county's high schools.

The stories, poetry, personal essays and artwork captured a variety of mindsets and subject matter. In a reflection piece entitled "My Story," Sara Cieslik, of Hamilton High School West, describes her willingness to stumble as she strives to find her voice: "…And so I kept on walking along that rocky path; often falling and falling again,/But each time I would get up, hold my head high, looking straight ahead/Because I have a beautiful story in me, a story I had to tell…"

Another student, Nikita Patel, of Hightstown High school, speaks to personal growth and an unknown, but exciting, future in her poem "I Used to Be But Now." "I used to be drizzle/But now I'm a hurricane; I used to be a pillow/But now I'm a rock; I used to be wind/But now I'm hail; I used to be feathers/But now…"

MCCC Vice President of Academic Affairs, Dr. Donald Generals, noted that Aspirations continues to be a meaningful partnership between the college and the community. "This publication represents the best of what our community is about - encouraging our young people to write and think. It's the foundation of whatever else you will go on and do," he said to the students. Dr. Generals thanked teachers and families for supporting these teens in their creative pursuits.

Also participating in the ceremony were MCCC Dean of Liberal Arts Robin Schore and Dean of Business and Technology Judy Ehresman.

The evening opened with a presentation by MCCC Theatre students under the direction of Program Coordinator Jody Person. They created interpretive pieces to accompany selected readings, while artwork featured in Aspirations was displayed on a screen above the Kelsey stage.

Funding is provided in part through a grant from the Mercer County Cultural and Heritage Commission and the New Jersey Council on the Arts.

MCCC Theatre students interpret journral readings through movement, with Aspirations student artwork in the background.


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West Windsor High School South students featured in Aspirations, from left, Anna Dourbal, Winnie Wang, Tanaz Ahmed, and Divya Ramesh.
Lawrence High School students, from left, Krista Edwards, Justin Scott and Liz Marsh.

Aspirations students from Allentown High School with English teacher Ellen Jacko, center.
MCCC students perform against a backdrop of Aspirations artwork.